Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Point Pinole

Wow, it has been quite a while since I updated this blog. I hope all of you have been doing well! I have been doing FANTASTICALLY. I'm two months into my summer vacation now, with about one month left. Let me give you a quick run-down of everything that happened since I last updated:

  • I survived finals.
  • I went home and found my beloved Burrowing Owls, which I had missed soooo much. It was incredibly nice to visit all of my old birding patches. The Bay Area is great, but there's nothing that makes me quite as happy as the horizons and sunlight of the Central Valley.

  • The UC Davis Museum of Fish & Wildlife Biology kindly let me volunteer with them for a few weeks. This blog actually helped me immensely with that! The Museum really liked the videos that I made for this blog back in 2012, and I ended up making more videos for them. You can find them at the Museum's Youtube channel. :)
  • After about a month at home, I came back to Berkeley and began training in the Steller's Jay lab for some new procedures. Being here in Berkeley has been super fun, especially for birding. During the school year, I so rarely have time for birds. So I've been using this summer to go on some of the Golden Gate Audubon Society's birdwalks. In the past few weeks, I've been to the bay, Lake Merritt in Oakland, Shoreline Park (where I got my lifer Surf Scoters!), and Tilden Regional Park... That's more birding than I did in probably all of last year. ;)

And just yesterday, I adventured out to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline! It was BEAUTIFUL. Point Pinole is basically a small horn of land jutting out into San Pablo Bay. The water around it laps up onto shore in the cutest little waves. The land itself alternates between eucalyptus groves and grassy hills. It quickly became one of my new favorite places.

At first, I wasn't seeing too many birds. A couple of Osprey did fly over almost right after I stepped onto the trail, which was a lovely treat - I haven't seen Osprey since last summer, when I went to Colorado.

Osprey have such pretty patterns of light and dark on their underwings. Probably my favorite part is the translucent window in the primary feathers. I'm a sucker for wing windows, like the ones in Red-shouldered Hawks, too.

Most of the trail after that was just that - a trail. It was gorgeous, of course! But my most exciting sightings were 4 Double-crested Cormorants flying over the bay. I knew the cormorants had to be coming from somewhere, so I hoped that once I reached the edge of the point, I would find a roost of them. I did find a roost of cormorants - and I found a whole lot more, too. The point is capped at the very end by a fishing pier. There was a chain of stumps next to the pier which I didn't pay any attention to at first - until I noticed a tern on top of one of them, and then another tern on the next stump, and then terns on almost every single one of the stumps - at least 104 in total.

The terns all looked like Forster's, which are the most common here. Most of them were just chilling on top of the stumps. It was a bit windy, so they had to constantly preen their feathers and lean into the wind.

Every once in a while, one of them would start yelling, which would get more of them yelling... They have the silliest, grouchiest call ever. You can hear it here!

They would also occasionally fight over stumps for no real reason at all. I guess when you're this cute, you're allowed to be annoying and territorial.

One of my favorite things about this flock is that there were lots of different plumage versions to admire! Like in the picture above - the tern closest to the left is in its nonbreeding plumage (black eyeliner but no cap & a solid black beak), the one just to its right is in breeding (black cap & its beak is orange and black), and the third one from the left is a juvenile (brown barring). I had fun drawing the different plumages. But at one point, a tern flew to the other end of this bar and spooked a bunch of other terns off - and when I looked more closely at it, it was most definitely NOT a Forster's.

There it is, to the right! It's HUGE in comparison to the Forster's Terns, its cap extends into black frills behind its head, and its beak is ginormous and bright red. Those field marks point to Elegant Tern.

I also like the above picture because the two terns on the left are yelling at each other. I told you, they're testy as heck.

At this point I was distracted from drawing any more of the terns by 6 black birds which flew by and screamed at me. That's the kind of distraction that you can't ignore. The birds flew out of sight around the bend of the point, but I zoomed after them, which meant running on a nerve-wrackingly narrow trail. I managed to avoid breaking my ankles, and got really cool looks at the birds, too! These cute lumps are Black Oystercatchers.

The oystercatchers scavenged amongst these rocks for a few minutes. They weren't alone - a number of Spotted Sandpipers tripped along beside them.

The sandpipers camouflaged really well against the rocks, so the easiest way to find them was to watch for movement. Spotted Sandpipers have got this great walking motion which basically looks like they're tripping and teetering around, always an instant away from falling over. I'm a big fan of Spotteds.

Unfortunately, while I was taking pictures of the Spotteds, the oystercatchers decided to book it. They gave a few more of their ridiculous yells  and took off.

That was about time for me to call it a day, too. Point Pinole is beautiful and I will definitely be back - but it is about two hours away by bus. Totally worth it.

It was really nice to share my fun birding adventure with you! I've just been kind of sitting on all of my pictures from this summer and not doing anything with them, which is a shame. I'll try to keep updating. But... I guess we'll see, lol. Until we speak again, happy birding! Have a great summer!

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